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SMC Planetarium Offers First 'In-Person' Show Since COVID Shutdown

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By Jorge Casuso

December 19, 2022 -- After nearly three years of remote Santa Monica College planetarium shows, attendees will finally get a hands on look at the stars next month.

On January 27, the John Drescher Planetarium will offer in-person observing through on-campus telescopes of "one of the prettiest open clusters in the sky," event organizers said.

Next month' free, live virtual shows will also look at recent images from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), explore the Sun's increase of activity toward Solar maximum and discuss what's next after NASA's Commercial Crew/Cargo program.

The shows take place on Friday nights at 8 p.m., following The Night Sky Show at 7.

Next month's line-up kicks off on Friday, January 6, with “James Webb Space Telescope – One Year after Launch!” presented by Senior Lecturer Jim Mahon.

The show reviews the accomplishments of the mission so far and "share some of the remarkable images and science streaming down daily from humanity’s premier space telescope."

On January 13, Associate Lecturer Sarah Vincent presents “Our Star Ramps Toward Maximum," which looks at "results of ground- and space-based solar astronomy and what science theorizes they might portend for our future."

"As the Sun increases activity toward Solar maximum — estimated to occur in a range from late 2024 to 2026 — Sol is under unprecedented scrutiny by humanity," event organizers said.

On Friday, January 20, Mahon presents “NASA Commercial Crew/Cargo, and the Twilight of ISS,” a look at what is next in Earth orbit as the program moves toward its final years.

"As we move into the mid-2020s, NASA should finally have two crew transportation vehicles and multiple cargo delivery systems for the International Space Station in operation," organizers said.

The lineup concludes January 27 with “Jupiter, The Moon, and the Pleiades,” a special hybrid show presented by Mahon and Vincent.

The presentation starts at 7 p.m. with the Night Sky Show hosted on the Zoom platform by Vincent, followed at 8 p.m. by in-person observing through on-campus telescopes guided by Mahon.

The in-person event "will take a look at Jupiter, the Moon, and the beautiful Pleiades star cluster -- the Seven Sisters of Greek lore -- one of the prettiest open clusters in the sky."

The program will be confirmed and final arrangements will be posted at the week of January 20, organizers said. Masks will be required.

If COVID protocols interfere, the observing event will be replaced by a Zoom feature show.

Planetarium lecturers are currently using the Zoom platform to present shows while the actual on-campus planetarium remains closed due to the COVID-19 emergency.

To attend the shows, the Zoom software must be installed on the viewer’s computer. A free download is available at

"The shows include the chance to chat with the planetarium lecturers and ask questions related to astronomy and space exploration," planetarium officials said.

More information is available online at or by calling 310-434-3005. Shows are subject to change or cancellation without notice.

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